Which Parts of the Big Bang Theory are Reliable, and Why?

I long held that there was no proof whatsoever that the universe was 13.7 billion year old, as all too many Big Bang theorists have long claimed, all over the Main Stream Media that they have exclusive access to.

Now I am happy to report that a main stream physicist, the very honorable professor Matt Strassler, supports this point of view in an excellent article:


Professor Strassler’s broad reasoning is exactly the one I long put forward: the equations and the experiments we have break down at very high energies, so we cannot use them to extrapolate logic at such energies (something similar happens with gravitation: we have no proof that this force as usually described holds beyond the Solar System… and some hints that it does not).

To be doubtful about the simplistic Big Bang model holds, even in light of the interpretation of the latest data, which supposedly shows gravitational wave ripples consecutive to cosmic inflation. Yet, as professor Strassler says: “BICEP2 can really only tell us about the late stage and exit from inflation”.

I sent a comment: I guess I will have to get more subtle with my own, much older “Universe: 100-billion years old?”. After this allusion of dubious taste, for someone who is not officially one of the great priests of physics, I proceeded to thank professor Strassler:

“In any case, thank you for this detailed analysis on how certain we are of the various elements of the concept of Big Bang. This is the sort of subtlety that needs to be taught to the public: that there are degrees of certainty in science. And even in physics.

By preaching the Big Bang as if it were a religion, as many scientists have done in popular shows (latest on “Cosmos”, complete with multiverse, presented as part of our “address”!) one did a disservice to science, or even to reason itself… And there could be a backlash, if the public discovers that they were lied to. So the earlier the subtleties are taught, the better.”

Here is professor Strassler’s excellent post, which demonstrates, in fascinating detail, the broad point I made previously, as an iconoclast philosopher:

Of Particular Significance

Familiar throughout our international culture, the “Big Bang” is well-known as the theory that scientists use to describe and explain the history of the universe. But the theory is not a single conceptual unit, and there are parts that are more reliable than others.

It’s important to understand that the theory — a set of equations describing how the universe (more precisely, the observable patch of our universe, which may be a tiny fraction of the universe) changes over time, and leading to sometimes precise predictions for what should, if the theory is right, be observed by humans in the sky — actually consists of different periods, some of which are far more speculative than others.  In the more speculative early periods, we must use equations in which we have limited confidence at best; moreover, data relevant to these periods, from observations of the cosmos and from particle physics experiments…

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18 Responses to “Which Parts of the Big Bang Theory are Reliable, and Why?”

  1. Alexi Helligar Says:

    Interesting article, Patrice. I don’t see any data in the “red zone” that supports a 100 billion year old universe. The 13.8 billion year old universe depends on the assumption that the laws of physics that we see now were in effect during the “red zone” era. I think this is a fair assumption to make.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Alexi:Alexi: You are right that conventional physicists reasoned exactly as you did: it’s “fair to assume” it’s business as usual. However, it can’t be true. I will roll out my reasons soon. After the next blast against Putin (The UN General Assembly is slated to voted Thursday). It has to do with inflation and it’s incompatibility with what I call holonomic time, and, in particular Relativity.

      Strassler, BTW, uses now for inflation what was my main argument, namely Dark Energy. But he is not too sure, so he also brandishes the inflaton a bit. My argument in “100 billion universe” was that Dark Energy exists, so we don’t need the inflaton (Occam’s razor).

  2. Alexi Helligar Says:

    I would say that Occam’s razor would support the extrapolation of the physics we see today into the “red zone”.

    As the author who you cite states, the current models work exceptionally well. I can see no reason to speculate on more exotic prior physics — yet. The universe is a tricky and evasive mind so something might present itself.

    inflation is not as speculative today as it was two weeks ago.

    I listened to the actual announcement of the BICEP2 results. Very informative and highly recommended. There are a couple of loop holes to be explored but the symmetry of the CMB and thus the early universe and likely the era prior to CMB up to the singularity that produced the universe seems not speculative at all.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Inflation is not inflaton. There is a difference between inflation and inflaton, and the results/interpretations of two weeks ago, besides being irrelevant to the reasoning at hand, need to be confirmed. All they do is make me take inflation more seriously. But my anti-inflaton position is same as ever. So inflation: maybe, why not. Inflaton: No.

      Inflaton: not needed now that we have DE.
      So Occam Razor! Crack!

      Inflaton: causes multiverse.
      So Occam Razor! Crack! Cut a quadzillion multiverse!

  3. Jerry Lisantti Says:

    I suggest you study the scientific method
    Then read some physics
    Then study the standard model
    Then come up with your own model that goes beyond the standard with new verifiable predictions by experiment. Your new model must agree with the standard model since the standard model works so well.
    Show some equations that back up your model

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Hello Jerry, and welcome to the comments.

      I wish your comment had more specifics about my lack of education. As I already long did, all that you “suggest”, in your magnanimity. (BTW, believe or not, it’s rather easy to build “models” that go beyond the SM; you may want to do some reading of your own…)

      I suggest that you have less reason to believe I should study the scientific method than I have to consider that your powers of observation are coming short, in light of the fact that I am an expert of the scientific method, and that I know quite a bit of physics.

      Less arrogance, more logic and observation, is the first lesson from the history of science.

      My main argument, now espoused by prof. Strassler, is that those who talked about the “First Three Minutes” did not know precisely the scientific method. It’s not because one got a theory right (electro-weak theory), that one understands the difference between was is sure (= SCIENCE) and what is an utopia (the red zone in Strassler’s essay; which I repeatedly proposed to “do away” with in the past, as established science).

      That essay here was just the last of many, with exactly that point as central:

      It may impress some that Weinberg (say) got a Nobel for one thing, but the approval of his peers does not mean that he is right always. Far from it.

      When I suggested some notions about Black Holes in the past, I was ignored. Yet those notions are now becoming common place.

      I have already suggested a line of experiment to go further than the SM (these experiments have already been run, and one needs to keep on running them with ever more precision).

      Ah, you may want, in turn, to study the scientific method, and discover that it is not JUST about equations. You first have to know what to equate. Among other problems.

      I may not be good at searching with the other drunks, the keys below that Standard lamp post, but then I hold that the scientific method is bigger than that.

      BTW, I never contradicted the Standard Model, as far as proven by the LHC. Differently from some who have an apparent urge to insult me, I am not stupid.

  4. aashami Says:

    What about the universe being created just as it is in the HBB point of Dr. Strassler,s figure ?
    I mean without all that red zone nonsense ?

  5. Anon Says:

    Anon | March 28, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    No evidence our equations of gravity work outside the solar system? Are you mad? Don’t answer that. Instead, please follow the proper path for overturning the mainstream cosmology:
    1) Understand the existing theories and evidence behind them
    2) Revolutionize physics.
    No skipping steps!

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Anon: OK, let’s apply your own recommendations, to… you. You have been skipping steps from the raw evidence.

      So learn this: 1) the rotation curves of galaxies do not work. Galaxies do not rotate according to the 17 C gravitation theory (attributed by Isaac Newton to a Frenchman, let it be said in passing). This is “explained” by, and “evidence” for, Dark Matter.

      2) Strictly speaking the same situation is true for galactic clusters. That, again, is “explained” by Dark Matter.

      3) I will not insult you by mentioning Dark Energy, a significant complication you probably heard of.

      Let’s forget for an instant the added hypothesis of “Dark Matter”. Strictly speaking, in first approximation, the fact is, that, the direct experimental evidence is: gravity according to 1/dd, does not work outside the SS.

      Dark Matter is just an interpretation of the raw data, to save 1/dd. (BTW, I am ready to believe in DM, because, you guessed it, I have a plausible explanation… completely outside of the SM, or any SUSY…).

      I understand that, the way I put it, I am violating cosmological Newton, thus cosmological “General Relativity”, and that there is solid evidence for both in the Solar System, and that the instinct of physicists is to extrapolate known laws. But the whole spirit of denouncing the red zone non sense is to point out that this works only so far.

  6. Jerry Lisantti Says:

    I read your post that you referred to in your response I would like to make a few comments about

    The local group of galaxies you refer to are approaching us not receding as you state. Where did 3.2 million light years come from? The Andromeda galaxy is about 2.5 million light years away. Where did your “receding” rate of 70 km/sec come from?

    You said it is called dark energy since the force vector can’t be seen. Force and energy are not the same thing. Energy is a scalar and force is a vector. Energy has no direction, force has a direction. Its called dark for the same reason its used in dark matter, its unknown.

    Your last two paragraphs have nothing to do with anything quantum mechanical, contrary to what you call them. They just show your opinion of scientists.

    The website you refer to:
    is a wonderful blog and very informative and educational. The author is doing a great public service by having his website.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Jerry: Thanks for your answer.

      You said: “The local group of galaxies you refer to are approaching us not receding as you state. Where did 3.2 million light years come from? The Andromeda galaxy is about 2.5 million light years away. Where did your “receding” rate of 70 km/sec come from?”

      I evoked instead the great work done by many astronomers in the 1910s and early 1920s, the discovery of the expansion of the universe: “It has been observed that, in our neighborhood, galaxies located 3.2 million light years away recede at 72 kilometers per second.”

      This is actually Hubble’s conclusion, although the speed he had was double that, 150 km/s. It’s a remarkable guesswork, as he did not have many galaxies to work with. And the reason for that is clear, and that’s why, obviously, I did not refer to a “local group of galaxies”

      The Milky Way-Andromeda-Triangulum “Local Group” has three giant galaxies, plus more than 50 other galaxies. As it is gravitationally bound, the Hubble expansion does not apply to it. Hubble had to exclude those, and he did. So did I.

      In Latin, vector means “one who carries or conveys, carrier“. From there more than 60 meanings are in use. I am perfectly aware of what a vector, or, for that matter, a tensor is in mathematics and physics. Even differential forms don’t scare me. I love Maxwell equations reduced to:

      dF = 0
      d*F = J

      Another meaning of “vector” in physics is for the force carriers, such as the carrier of the electro-weak force, the 90 GeV Z and W… That’s the meaning that I was alluding to (although the relationship between gravity and graviton is not clear to me).

      Energy, although a scalar, can get directional: visualize water going down a pipe from a dam.

      My last two paragraphs had indeed nothing to do with the Quantum (I have expressed opinions on that in other essays, including comments to physics blogs). It does NOT show my “opinion of scientists“, in general, just of some scientists, who act like money greedy clowns.

      I have met with a number of great physicists who were not like that, some household names.

      Fortunately Matt Strassler has now published a pretty clear blowing out of the water those… crooks? (I wrote much more detailed essays along the same lines in years prior).

      We need to hold physics to very high standards of public expression. All physicists should do, as Strassler did, separate the green from the red. It’s a great public service, indeed, and I am happy that professor Strassler now shares my long ferociously and loudly held opinion that physics is not just about equations. Honesty is even more important.

  7. Paul Handover Says:

    I feel a headache coming on!

    Sorry to lower the tone of the conversation but most of this is beyond me!

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Putin is indeed beyond us… I use “aphorisms” to fly less high, and with guaranteed lack of boredom. I have been holding up my “holonomic time” essay which is guaranteed to be beyond most physicists (!), so I have to describe everything as if talking to my four year old daughter…

      I have had some arrogant comments from physicists, BTW, great fun to read: just because I have doubt that conventional thinking extend beyond where we know it works, they tend to call me “mad” or totally ignorant… It’s interesting how anxious so many childish people are to appear as if they were authorities…

      • Paul Handover Says:

        If your daughter understands this post, then I shall crawl away into a dark hole! Perhaps, when I have some quiet time, I might go through the essay and explain where and what is beyond my understanding! Trust me, this subject is one that fascinates me.

        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          Please, go ahead, find a question. My dad, a scientist, but not a mathematically inclined one, had some deep, and simple question about the universe, long ago, that left me struggling… Thus I have been digging ever since…

          My objections there, to conventional Big Bang, are easy to understand. I have a much more sophisticated objection incoming soon. Holonomic Time, something specially devised to enrage specialists…

        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          You also have the choice to consider the Axiom of Choice (following essay)… Now… Don’t want those brains to stop simmering…

  8. Garcol Says:

    The linear approximation of Hubble Constant generates the approximate age as you have described; however, there are two elements which need to be considered in addition:
    1) Despite the non-linear character of the rate of expansion, the integration of the expansion over velocity could infact yield a linear approximation of what is currently defined as the Hubble constant of 71 km/s/Mpc, and,
    2) there are other dissimilar methods for obtaining an age range for the known universe: White Dwarf cooling, Magnitude of Globular Clusters and relative abundance of radioactive decay.
    These all seem to agree on an estimated age of 12-14 GYr.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Garcol: You made the same exact comment about the 100 billion universe. Fair enough. The “abundance of radioactive decay” is NOT an argument for a 13 GYr universe: the elements are created in stars, but for Hydrogen, Deuterium, and Helium. The last two are among the strongest arguments for the Big Bang (it’s hard to see how stars could create Deuterium, as it burns readily!)

      All these BB madness is puerile. Look at the excitement for the South Pole result: a bit hasty, no?

      Anyway, let me repeat my answer, roughly:
      You are entirely correct that one can twist the known data to make it fit a 13.8 GYr age.
      However, sometimes it’s not so clear: in the very latest news I heard, some quasar at extreme distance was shedding energy at the normal average rate these beasts tend to have. In the “a universe from nothing” officialdom, that makes little sense.

      The point I was making is that we have a NEW phenomenon, apparently confirmed, COSMIC EXPANSION (= “Dark Energy”). With that engine, anything is possible, as we have no idea how it works. So I just pointed out all the extrapolation of known (or hoped to be known, such as gravity) equations, way back was more than suspicious. I am happy to report that the esteemed physicist Matt Strassler espoused that line in his blog, six months later.

      I have even sharper criticism in that area to bring forth, what I call HOLONOMIC time (if one knows what holonomy is, my semantics pretty much describes the problem).

      I am of course looking forward to more observations from you, and I’m sorry I don’t remember the details about this latest cosmological quasar (there is also a new strange local galactic quasar, above the Eddington limit, but that’s a completely different, and understood, story). I tend to do speed reading.

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